How Birmingham is Shaping the Future of Tech | Bruntwood SciTech
By Bruntwood SciTech
It’s no secret that Birmingham has a rich and storied history as the UK’s epicentre of manufacturing, but this diverse city is now shaping the future of technology and science.
In fact, in 2021, Birmingham was named as the fastest-growing tech sector in the UK due to the rapid number of emerging businesses. But how exactly has the city earned this title and what does the future of tech and science look like for the Second City.
What Does the Tech Sector Look Like in Birmingham?
Birmingham has seen significant growth in the tech sector over recent years, seeing an average uplift of 7.6% each year between 2014 and 2019, making it the fastest growing in the UK.
The West Midlands is home to the largest number of startups in the UK. Not only has this increased the number of tech job vacancies available - which have nearly doubled since 2020 - but it is expected to continue, creating over 52,000 new jobs within the sector by the end of 2025, which is a huge 55% increase from 2019. Not only is this great for the city’s reputation, but it will do wonders for the local economy too, as it’s thought that this will generate around £2.7 billion.
How are Tech Startups Contributing to Growth?
It’s not just existing tech businesses contributing to this incredible growth - startups have been in the mix too.
It goes without saying that building a new business from scratch is no easy feat, but access to funding can give entrepreneurs a huge boost and help them to scale up their businesses like never before.
In 2021, tech companies raised a staggering £500 million in venture capital, whilst the government contributed £400 million to the British Business Bank’s Midlands Engine Investment Fund, bringing the total to £700 million. With funds like these available, it’s no wonder there are so many innovative new tech businesses emerging across the region.
Why are Businesses Choosing Birmingham as a Base?
When it comes to transport, Birmingham is very well connected, with fast transport links to the UK capital. In fact, many tech businesses report that they chose Birmingham over London due to the lower commercial and housing rental costs, strength of support through the local ecosystem and the diverse population, as well as the strong links to other innovation districts across the country.
Aside from the diverse culture, extensive extra-curricular activities available and convenient central location - there are a number of reasons why Birmingham is an incredibly attractive base for any business.
The number of large corporations choosing to move their headquarters to Birmingham is testament to this, with businesses such as HSBC, ANDDigital and Advanced all announcing their upcoming moves to the region.
HS2 will only add to this, with HS2 Curzon Street station only twelve minutes walk away from Innovation Birmingham and great connections to the Knowledge Quarter.
Additionally, HS2 will cut down travel time for those venturing into London for meetings, networking events and conferences, taking them just fifty-two minutes, which also means it will attract even more talent to the city.
How can the Next Generation Get Involved?
In order to keep this momentum going, it’s important that the next generation is inspired to get involved - and that starts with access to education.
When it comes to choosing a university to nurture a career in tech or science, Birmingham is the place to be, with nine world-class universities and higher education institutions feeding the talent pool in the region with over 58,000 graduates per year. Not only is there a plethora of tech careers to choose from after graduating, but the established partnerships between companies like Bruntwood SciTech and local universities can help to open up conversations and provide a direct funnel into these exciting careers.
For those studying Life Sciences, Birmingham Health Innovation Campus has been recognised by the government as one of six Life Science Opportunity Zones, providing ample postgraduate career opportunities. BioTech is a growing industry in the science and tech sector, with technology becoming increasingly more important within the science sector. BHIC is assisting this growth, providing connections between top researchers, clinicians and emerging new talent at the University of Birmingham.
It’s no surprise, then, that so many of those looking to pursue a career in tech after university are choosing to stay in Birmingham, which retains more of its graduates than any English city outside of the capital.
For those not wanting to go down the university route, it’s still looking positive for the tech industry, with 11,000 STEM apprenticeships commencing between 2019 and 2022, giving those students the opportunity for an exciting, rewarding career in tech.
In addition to apprenticeships, the government also provides initiatives such as the Local Digital Skills Partnerships and Digital Bootcamps to introduce people to new careers that they may not have considered before. The West Midlands Combined Authority has spent £20m on these bootcamps to boost skills in the area, and these are now being rolled out nationally.
The Digital Innovators programme was also launched at the start of 2022 and is supporting 282 young people in the region in a bid to boost digital skills development and address the £50bn national gap in digital skills.
The not-for-profit training provider has established itself at Innovation Birmingham and gives young people, who are either unemployed or not receiving formal education, access to unique career-changing opportunities with sector leading employers across the West Midlands, such as HS2 and the NHS, through exposure to a number of innovation challenge projects.
What Else Can Be Done to Accelerate Growth?
Despite the ample government-funded apprenticeship opportunities for new talent, training opportunities and initiatives and startup funding - there is one area where the government may be hindering the growth in the tech sector in Birmingham.
Public R&D spend isn’t as equitable as it could be and a more equitable regional distribution of the public R&D spending would help scale the science and technology sector and accelerate innovation. The public sector investment in R&D in the West Midlands lags that of other regions; increasing this would not only be excellent news for Birmingham, but it would also have a knock-on effect and help to level up the entire UK economy. The government is being called upon to deliver on its pledge to increase R&D investment to 2.4% GDP by 2027, in particular due to the UK’s historically low expenditure on R&D compared to its OECD peers, which is also contributing to the regional imbalances in R&D spend.
To supercharge investment into the West Midlands, our joint venture partner for Bruntwood SciTech, Legal & General, recently pledged £4 billion for urban regeneration and the construction of new homes in the West Midlands.
Working in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the additional investment will focus on levelling up, achieving net zero, brownfield regeneration, affordable housing and inclusive growth, in a bid to build a ‘healthier, happier, better connected and more prosperous West Midlands’.
From nurturing young talent, to building brand new businesses - it seems that being in Birmingham can help careers to thrive. Whether you’re running an exciting new start-up or an established business looking for a collaborative space to scale in the centre of tech and science ecosystems, Innovation Birmingham and Birmingham Health Innovation Campus are the best places to be. Get in touch today to see how Bruntwood SciTech could help your business to flourish in Birmingham.